It is widely recognized that the secular Indian state unlike its Western counterpart does not follow the strict separation of religion and state, opting to intervene in the domain of religion by treating religions equally. This article examines how the concept of equal treatment of religions is applied in the legal domain by an intellectual history of the Ayodhya litigation and argues that the courts cannot treat religions equally due to the incompatible nature of the claims made by the parties i.e. the history of religion claim of the Hindus vis-a-vis the property rights claim of the Muslims. Departing significantly from the current consensus about the litigation being characterized by defective legal interpretation and political influences, it further argues that the real legal challenge in resolving this dispute is addressing the theological frameworks within modern property law which are dependent on a set of normative inferences embedded in colonial discourse.
The formation of Hindu law has been chronicled by historians and others as a complex process involving the negation of customary law and the upholding of sacred texts, upon which codes of law were formulated. This paper seeks to interrogate the truth behind this narrative by examining the category of Hindu law and the processes that allowed it to emerge within the British colonial legal imagination. It argues that the making of Hindu law was a process of theologisation within an outer framework of secularisation i.e. the Christian theological framework embedded in the secular framework of Western legal epistemology was the background by which “Hindu law” emerged in the eyes of the colonisers. It examines Western legal notions of divine law, natural law, and human law and the role of historical jurisprudence in this process. It finally concludes by examining the implications of the argument for the formation of secular legal systems.